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St. Patrick’s Day Facts. Did You Know…?

Green clothes, green food, green beer and parades everywhere! That’s what I know about St. Patrick’s Day!  But there’s more to the holiday. Here are a few interesting facts:

The man we know as St. Patrick was born in Great Britain, named Maewyn Succat and was not religious. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish marauders when he was 16 and formed his religious beliefs while enslaved. After escaping back to England, he became ordained as a priest and returned to Ireland to convert the Irish Celtic pagans to Christianity. Seems like a pretty dark beginning to be doing all this celebrating!

Originally, March 17th, the recorded day of St. Patrick’s death, was celebrated as a Catholic feast and a quiet religious observance. The first largely public celebration of St. Patrick’s Day took place in Boston in 1737. It did not become a national holiday in Ireland until 1903. In fact, until the 1970s, pubs in Ireland were required by law to be closed on March 17th.

In modern celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, revelers wear green, eat and drink green foods and turn everything they can dye green. This tradition is said to commemorate St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock in his religious teaching, but didn’t really become a part of his feast celebration until the 19th Century. In reality, St. Patrick wore blue.

In celebration of the shamrock and the Emerald Isle itself, American St. Patrick’s Day partiers like to turn things green. One well-known dye job happens every year in Chicago when the city dyes its river green. This tradition began in 1962 when the parade organizer, head of a plumbers’ union, noticed that the dye that had been used to find sources of river pollution stained his clothing green. He thought it would be a great idea to use enough dye to turn the whole river green for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Researchers say the environmental impact of the dye is less than that of the pollution from sewage-treatment plants.

Aside from the varieties of green foods people consume for the feast of St. Patrick, there are some popular Irish treats that get a boost on the big day. Corned beef and cabbage is a popular Irish tradition. Each year in the US, more than 26 billion pounds of beef and more than 2 billion pounds of cabbage are produced. To wash this down, those who want to be truly Irish will have a pint of Guinness. The brewer says more than 13 million pints will be consumed around the world on St. Patrick’s Day. “May the road rise up to meet you!”

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